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Publishers are idiots.

SF novels published on Kindle that cost $13.99 are nothing short of insanity.  There is nothing special about such expensive novels; they’re no longer than any other novel, they don’t have “extras” like (say) a Blu-Ray movie does, and often they don’t even have a full-sized copy of the cover bundled in.  And any illustrations from the print edition, if included, are often poorly-reproduced.

There are many self-published SF authors charging $3.99 and $4.99 for full-length novels that are just as good or better than the crap coming out of Tor or Macmillan or Penguin, which Amazon can’t discount because “the price was set by the publisher”.  And often the Kindle price is double or more the price of the mass-market paperback edition (I rarely buy hardback SF, or even trade paperback, because again, too fucking expensive).

The major publishers are trying to squeeze hardback price out of something they’ve already put into electronic format to print.  It ain’t that hard to reformat for Kindle; even a guy like me can do it, with something like Calibre.  So for a work product that has nearly no work* in it, and as such is as near to being pure profit as anything in the world, they’re going to try to stick readers who prefer e-books with full paperback production price.

I don’t think so.  In fact, I’ve often waited over a year after publication of certain series that I follow for the price to come down after the mass-market paperback is issued.  One example, George RR Martin’s Wild Cards series.  I read the first two and politely said “no thanks” when the third one came up at some horrendous hardback level price — and I’ve never gone back to see if the price went down, because I found plenty else to read at affordable prices.  I’m happy to go back and re-read stuff I already own, or grab something off of Gutenberg, or buy indie.

(And yeah, this is coming from the guy who spent over $200 purchasing the 20-novel Aubrey-Maturin series some years ago — but, fooled ya!  About half of that was from a gift card I got from my in-laws.  So it wasn’t “my” money.  And I’ve read the entire series front to back three or four times since.)

The big publishing houses have a problem — the rise of independent self-publishing at a fraction of their inflated prices — and they’re not handling it well.  They should remember what happened to the buggy-whip makers.

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* Of course, I don’t mean the author’s work.  I mean the publishing house’s work, that they had to do anyway to put the book in print in the first place.  E-books for big publishers are pretty much an afterthought, and it often shows in the formatting.